Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Indulgent Vegan Chocolate Mousse

This recipe began its life as a vegan frosting, over at Chocolate Covered Katie (you can check out my take on the original recipe here), but pop it in the fridge overnight and, voila, you have vegan chocolate mousse! While it's good as a frosting, it's great as a mousse, so it's a wonderful surprise that this transformation is as simple as a little bit of extra time in the fridge (and just a tiny little tweak of the ingredients).

The texture of the mousse is as light and airy as the non-vegan versions that contain things like egg yolks or gelatin. Be sure to serve it chilled, though, since the mousse softens slightly as it warms. The hands-on time for this dessert is ridiculously low (though you will have to exercise your patience while it chills), so it makes a great, simple finish to an elaborate dinner.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Divine Vegan Chocolate Frosting

I was looking through my recent posts yesterday and noticed something a little upsetting - it's been a while since I featured any chocolate on the blog. Given the usually faithful presence of chocolate in my life, this is a sad thing - but fret no more, I'm here to remedy that deficiency.

The truth is, I've been trying to eat a little healthier lately which, for me, means less baking. It's a sad, sad fact. Which is why it's a good thing that this treat doesn't need much justification, and absolutely no baking at all (I'm good at loopholes, no?). In fact, it's made with such wholesome ingredients, and so little added sugar, that it might even be considered healthy (am I pressing my luck yet?).

This recipe comes to us from the lovely and endlessly creative Chocolate Covered Katie (isn't this girl just the queen of raw and vegan desserts?). She serves hers as frosting shots, modeled after the trendy treat from Sprinkles Cupcakes, but whether you scoop it out of a shot glass or use it to top a rich, vegan chocolate cake, this confection is equally divine.

Do we have time for a little confession? Okay, so the frosting pictured here never actually made it into cute little shot glasses (I had another plan for it - which I'll reveal tomorrow), but I can attest to the fact that it tastes good by the spoonful, too.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pinned There, Done That: Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Chicken

If you're new to The Traveling Spoon, you can read more about my 'Pinned There, Done That' feature here. I'm working on a button for the series, but that's no reason you should miss out on updates in the meantime!

Sorry to disappoint those of you who are here for boozy chicken - this dish isn't alcoholic (it actually gets its name from the famed Bourbon Street in New Orleans), but it's pretty amazing nonetheless. If you've ever eaten Chinese food in a mall food court (go on, you can admit it - I won't judge) you've probably encountered this dish. It's the one being passed out on toothpicks to entice you to buy - and I have to admit that on more than one occasion, it's worked.

This dish is a perfect blend of sweet and salty with a really savory kick (I love umami!), so when I discovered a recipe circulating around on Pinterest I just had to give it a try. In the past, I've sated my Bourbon Chicken cravings with my own Honey Chicken recipe. That tangy dish makes a great meal, but this recipe goes in the crockpot and, well, sometimes convenience is king.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Budget Travel's Best Travel Movies of 2011

I got my Budget Travel magazine last week, which means it's time for another travel-related post. The magazine has become a bimonthly which makes me sad, but thankfully I'm still a fan. In honor of the upcoming Oscars, this month's issue had a feature about the best travel movies of 2011- and I'm sad to admit that I haven't seen a single one!

You can see their picks here, more than one of which is on my to-watch list (I'm eager to see 'The Way' after my experiences in Spain), but it made me wonder just what travel movies would make my list. To be honest, there are just too many good ones out there to choose (at least Budget Travel had the advantage of being limited to one year) but here are a few of my favorites (based on scenery, not necessarily storyline):

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eggvocado (Baked Egg in Avocado)

Apparently this simple recipe has been doing the rounds of the interweb - who knew? And here I was thinking I'd invented a true original. Oh well, I guess that's what happens when you're late to the Pinterest game.

Regardless of provenance, this recipe is too elegant not to share. The Eggvocado is, in essence, exactly what it sounds like - an egg gently baked in a cradle of lightly-hollowed avocado. The elegance of the recipe is in its simplicity and versatility; you can top your Eggvocado with just about anything, from cracked pepper or parmesan, to chili flakes or a balsamic reduction (side note: I've been obsessed with balsamic vinegar of late - in my opinion, it's a culinary powerhouse that has yet to get its due).

If I'm honest, I actually prefer the flavor of unbaked avocado, but it's the texture of this dish that really makes it; the ever-so-slightly molten egg combined with the creamy avocado is just dreamy - and remarkably filling. The recipe requires the minimum of prep, which makes it perfect for an indulgent snack or, paired with whole wheat bread soldiers, a luxuriant meal. I'd love to try it topped with bacon crumbles because, well, it's bacon. And avocado. And egg. A combination worthy of internet celebrity if there ever was one.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Krispy Kreme Brownies for Mardi Gras! (Re-post)

Happy Fat Tuesday! I'm going to do something a little unusual today and re-share a post from the early, early days of The Traveling Spoon. It's a long post but I think it's worth another look (especially since only a handful of people saw it the first time, my blog was so new!) and, best of all, it contains a super-indulgent 'recipe' that's just what you need on this traditional day of excess. So without further ado...

Doughnuts + Brownies = THE perfect Fat Tuesday recipe!

Observe the gorgeous chunk of doughnut buried inside that brownie!

Want to find out why? For a brief history lesson, round-the-world tour and one very delicious and indulgent recipe, keep reading....... 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pinned There, Done That: Meltaway Cookies

Last week, I took the plunge and finally joined the rest of the world on Pinterest, and while I've already pinned dozens of things I'll probable never make or do, I decided to make a concerted effort to actually give some of my pins a try - and share the results with you on the blog!


From now on, I'll be sharing my real-life renderings of Pinterest finds in these 'Pinned There, Done That' posts. It won't be a regular feature, and I can't promise that my attempts will turn out anything like the original - but really, isn't that all part of the fun?

So, without further ado, here's my first attempt at putting a Pin into practice: Meltaway Cookies from Landee See, Landee Do.

The Pinspiration:

The Product:

So, what do you think? Differences in lighting aside, they're pretty close, right?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Banana Coconut Pumpkin Bread

So, yesterday was my one year blogging anniversary! I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't even notice until late last night, by which time it was too late to get out the candles or whip up a cake. Instead, we'll have to celebrate a day late - and with a warm, tender loaf of quick bread in place of white cake and buttercream.

That may seem like a bit of an unfair trade, but this isn't any ordinary quick bread. It's full of wholesome ingredients that manage to make it comforting (that's the pumpkin and banana talking) and exciting (that tropical coconut, again) at the same time.

Look at that gorgeous, crunchy topping

There's a minimum of added sugar which means the natural flavors of the pumpkin, coconut, and banana can speak for themselves. If that sounds like an unusual combo to you, I'd urge you to give the recipe a try. It's more sophisticated than your average banana bread and a little sweeter than a classic pumpkin loaf. As with my Chicken Crispers, the coconut is the secret ingredient, lending enough tropical flavor to brighten any wintry day, and elevating a simple quick bread to almost celebratory fare.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Coconut Chicken Crispers

Heartwarming festivities and residual Valentine's glow aside, things have been positively wintry around these parts. The skies are gray and lowering, everyone is wrapped up like the 24th of December, and just the other day I spied a few brave flurries of snow - in Tennessee.

Naturally, they didn't last long, but the general outlook these days is a little cheerless, nonetheless - which makes me think that now is the perfect time to share a recipe that's decidedly unseasonal. In fact, it's even a little unusual, but no less delicious for that fact. Yes, it combines chicken and coconut. Yes, it blends the flavors of the tropics with a classic bar food. And yes, it's a match made in heaven.

I discovered this recipe at Can You Stay For Dinner (my latest blog crush) and just knew I had to try it out. I love recipes that add an unexpected twist (coconut) to an otherwise unremarkable dish (chicken tenders), and was doubly thrilled that I could have the crispy-on-the-outside-juicy-on-the-inside chicken tenders I craved, without a deep fat fryer. A combination of pan-searing and baking makes these tenders crisp and juicy, without all the mess and stench of frying - not to mention the added fat!

The toasted coconut lends a slightly nutty, slightly tropical flavor without being overpowering, and the panko bread crumbs create a thin crust of golden deliciousness. Matt and I ate these plain, but I imagine they'd be great with a honey-mustard dipping sauce or a mango-lime salsa. Either way, they'll satisfy any sweet-and-salty craving and maybe, just maybe, chase your winter blues away.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Love Letter Postcard

It's the day before Valentine's Day - do you know where your Valentine cards are? If the answer is 'no,' don't worry, I have yet another idea for you! Last week I shared a fun scratch-off, lotto-style Valentine tutorial, as well as 10 ideas for creative, handmade Valentines. Today's post is a little more serious and romantic - I'm going to walk you through making an old-fashioned love letter Valentine's card.

To make this card, you'll need a postcard-sized piece of white or cream card stock, a damp tea bag (trust me - just save one from your morning cuppa), a tiny envelope (which you can make by hand), a few tiny sheets of paper, and a gluestick. For an extra romantic touch, you'll also need some sealing wax and an object to stamp the wax with your chosen design.

Okay, now you've gathered all your supplies, here's how to get started (I apologize for not having step-by-step photos - you'll just have to wade through the text on this one). First, sponge the damp tea bag all over your card stock, taking care not to get the card too wet. This will give you that aged paper effect (you may remember the technique from grade school school projects back in the day - it's just like making a Magna Carta or a Declaration of Independence!). Set the card stock aside to dry.

While your paper is drying, you can pen your tiny love letter. Make sure that your paper sheets fit inside your little envelope and that the envelope is smaller than your tea-dyed card stock. If you're unsure about what to write, copy a few quotes or a favorite poem - anything your loved one might enjoy reading.

By now, your card stock should be nice and dry. At this point, you can leave it blank, cover it with a love note or poem or, as I did, the names of famous couples from literature and history (I warned you it would be serious and romantic - if you're looking for something more playful, try these). When your card is ready, affix the tiny envelope to the card with a gluestick and press down to secure.

The last step is to seal your letter with sealing wax or, if you'd prefer, a cute sticker.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

I'm on Pinterest!

Well, folks - I finally took the plunge. I joined Pinterest last night, and I'm ashamed to admit how much time I've spent on it since. It's just as fun as I had imagined (which is why I'd resisted joining), although it will be a while before my boards are filled and fleshed out.

In the meantime, feel free to track me down (you may notice my bright red, shiny, new Pinterest button on the sidebar!). I'd love to see what you all have been pinning!...And if you you have any tips for this somewhat overwhelmed newbie, I'd appreciate them!

One more thing: don't forget that tomorrow is the last day for the My Memories Suite giveaway! Entry is still pretty low so your chances of winning are good!!

Friday, February 10, 2012

10 Valentine Card Ideas

Have you sorted your gift for your sweetheart yet? Valentine's Day is right around the corner  - kids are already bringing home fistfuls of tiny heart-shaped notes and pretty soon every long-stemmed red rose in every gas station in the state will be worth its weight in gold. Yesterday, I shared a fun scratch-off Valentine card idea, but if that's not your cup of tea (or piece of cardstock - hehe) here are a few more ideas that might do the trick!

I Love Ewe: This is one of my favorites, even if it is a little goofy. Made from cardstock covered with torn construction paper. The sheep is made of wadded cotton wool.

Scrabble 'I Picked a Good One': I used special Scrabble stickers for this one, but you could easily make your own with some tan card stock and a fine-tipped pen.

'I'm hooked': The background for this card was clipped from a magazine, but you could use a photo or colored construction paper. Hand-drawn fish are just as cute, too (but don't forget to draw the hook!)

Missing You: For the absent Valentine, like Matt this year (he's away doing field training). Colored construction paper and a few heart stickers are all that's needed.

Valentine Cipher: Hide your message in a jumble of letters and then provide a cover sheet to your secret love. Just be sure they know which way to apply the sheet (matching stickers on the top corner are one solution) Because everyone likes a bit of mystery, right?

Hey Cutie: Because no one can resist a smiling, zippered orange (you have to admit, it's 'cute'). Clip this 'cutie' from a box of fruit. Bonus: clementines for weeks!

I want S'more: For the food lover's lover. It's also a great excuse for using to-die-for food photos! A brown-paper background makes it campfirey and authentic.

Like Cookie and Milk: There are lots of ways you can do this one, and they're all sweet and delicious!

Ransom note: Not to be confused with the creepy, awful kind - this is a fun way to let your sweetheart know you'd like to whisk them away.

'A Waffle Lot': For the Valentine you love more than breakfast food (which, if you're anything like me, is saying a lot!).

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The Southern Institute: Creative Me Monday - I Should Be Mopping the Floor: Mop It Up Monday - Brassy Apple: Make It Monday - Craft-O-Maniac: Craft-O-Maniac Monday  - It's So Very Cheri: It's Party Time - Skip To My Lou: Made By You Monday - My Girlish Whims: Your Whims Wednesday - Southern Lovely: Show & Share - Ginger Snap Crafts: Wow Me Wednesday - JAQS Studio: Made by ME Wednesday - Clean & Scentsible: The Creative Spark Wednesday - Oopsey Daisy: Wednesday's Wowzers - Creations by Kara: Look What I Made Wednesday - Sew Much Ado: We Did It Wednesday - It's a Keeper: It's a Keeper Thursday - Bear Rabbit Bear: Things I've Done Thursday - Somewhat Simple: Strut Your Stuff Thursday - House of Hepworths: Hookin' Up with HoH - The Crafty Blog Stalker: Blog Stalking Thursday - Between U & Me: Crazy Cute Thursdays - Allie Makes: Making It With Allie - A Glimpse Inside: Catch A Glimpse Thursday - Crafty Scrappy Happy: Crafty Scrappy Happy Me - Domesblissity: Thriving on Thursdays - Gluesticks: Get Your Brag On - Chic on a Shoestring: Flaunt it Friday - Simply Designing: Simply Link - Creation Corner: Friday Link - Stuff and Nonsense: Fridays Unfolded - The Shabby Nest: Frugal Friday - Five Days...5 Ways: Feature Friday Free-for-All - Whipperberry: Friday Flair - Sassy Sites: Free-For-All Friday - kojo designs: Friday Fun Finds - Design Dazzle: Share Your Awesomeness Friday - Happy Hour Projects: Freestyle Friday - Tidy Mom: I'm Lovin' It - A Little Knick Knack: EBTKS - 30 Handmade Days: Pity Party - Happy Hour Projects: Share the Love Valentine Party - Tatertots & Jello: Weekend Wrap Up - Six Sisters' Stuff: Strut Your Stuff Saturday - Gingerbread: Sweet Saturday - Too Much Time: Get Schooled Saturday - Be Different...Act Normal: Show and Tell Saturday - Nutmeg Place: Show Off Saturday

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Scratch-Off Valentine Cards

Ever since I was little, I've loved surprises and the promise of discovery. I used to read Agatha Christie novels, Choose-Your-Own-Adventures, and 5-Minute Mysteries by the handful. Even today, I love scavenger hunts, detective stories, and procedural dramas.  I guess I just can't help myself - one whiff of mystery and I'm hooked. So when I saw this fun Valentine idea in this month's Better Homes and Gardens, I just had to try it out.

Okay, so it's not exactly mystery, but it is discovery and, either way, it's a lot of fun! The cards in the magazine were printed (you can find the printables from BHG here, or visit Oopsey Daisy for Alison's fun twist on the idea), but I went the handmade route for a more personal touch (or maybe it was just because our printer is having issues...).

Whether you choose to print or pen, all you need is some card stock, a small paint brush, metallic acrylic paint, clear contact paper, and dishwashing liquid. That's right, dishwashing liquid. Now that's a surprise!

Print or write your card, using a stencil or cookie cutter to make the heart shapes if crafting by hand. To make the scratch-off solution, combine two parts metallic paint with one part dishwashing liquid.

Cut a small strip of contact paper, just large enough to make the number of hearts you've drawn (see pictures below for some different design ideas). Then, using a small, flat brush, paint the contact paper with a layer of scratch-off solution and allow to dry for at least one hour (if you're impatient like me, a hair dryer on low will speed the process). Repeat for two or three more coats, until the contact paper is well covered and not streaky.

Cut the hearts from the contact paper, using your stencil and a pair of sharp scissors. Affix painted hearts over the drawn hearts to cover completely.

Be sure to give your Valentine a shiny new penny so they can reveal your hidden message!

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Skip To My Lou: Made By You MondayIt's So Very Cheri: It's Party TimeCraft-O-Maniac: Craft-O-Maniac MondayBrassy Apple: Make It MondayI Should Be Mopping the Floor: Mop It Up MondayThe Southern Institute: Creative Me Monday - My Girlish Whims: Your Whims Wednesday - Southern Lovely: Show & Share - Ginger Snap Crafts: Wow Me Wednesday - JAQS Studio: Made by ME Wednesday - Clean & Scentsible: The Creative Spark Wednesday - Oopsey Daisy: Wednesday's Wowzers - Creations by Kara: Look What I Made Wednesday - Sew Much Ado: We Did It Wednesday - Somewhat Simple: Strut Your Stuff - House of Hepworths: Hookin' Up with the HoH - Bear Rabbit Bear: Things I've Done Thursday - The Crafty Blog Stalker: Blog Stalking Thursday - Between U & Me: Crazy Sweet Thursday - A Glimpse Inside: Catch A Glimpse Thursday - Delightful Order: Delightfully Inspiring Thursday - Gluesticks: Get Your Brag On - Something Swanky: Sweet Treats Thursday - What's Allie's Making Now: Making It With Allie - Crafty Scrappy Happy: Crafty Scrappy Happy Me - Diana Rambles: Thematic Thursday - Chic on a Shoestring: Flaunt it Friday - Simply Designing: Simply Link - Creation Corner: Friday Link - Stuff and Nonsense: Fridays Unfolded - The Shabby Nest: Frugal Friday - Five Days...5 Ways: Feature Friday Free-for-All - Whipperberry: Friday Flair - Sassy Sites: Free-For-All Friday - kojo designs: Friday Fun Finds - Design Dazzle: Share Your Awesomeness Friday - Happy Hour Projects: Freestyle Friday - Tidy Mom: I'm Lovin' It - A Little Knick Knack: EBTKS - 30 Handmade Days: Pity Party - Happy Hour Projects: Share the Love Valentine Party - Tatertots & Jello: Weekend Wrap Up - Six Sisters' Stuff: Strut Your Stuff Saturday - Gingerbread: Sweet Saturday - Too Much Time: Get Schooled Saturday - Be Different...Act Normal: Show and Tell Saturday

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Giant Cookie Pie

I'm doing pretty well on my New Year's resolutions this year. I mean, yesterday I rolled out the new blog design, and some of you may have noticed a definite uptick in veggie-centric and 'real food' related posts. I really am trying - and it's only February.

It's important that I point this out...because I'm about to singlehandedly destroy all my progress thus far with today's post.

See what I mean?

Because sometimes all the spaghetti squash and roasted brussels sprouts in the world aren't going to do it for you.

Because sometimes a platefull of roasted cabbage doesn't let someone know how you really feel about them.

Because sometimes nothing says 'I love you' like a broken pie crust,

filled with thick, creamy cookie dough batter,

sprinkled with a rainbow of M&Ms,

and baked until just magnificently molten in the center.

When I asked Matt what he wanted for Valentine's Day this year, he promptly answered 'a giant cookie.' I mean, really? I offer you the world, and you want an oversize pastry?

I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised - it's the same thing I gave him for Valentine's Day last year.

But this year's cookie is a little different - it's ooey, gooey cookie dough batter, stuffed with milk chocolate candies, and baked into a buttery pie shell (crumbly pieces and freezer burn are optional - but they add extra character) - because like our love, Matt's giant cookies are always evolving.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A New Look!

Regular readers of The Traveling Spoon may notice that things look a little different today. I promised you a redesign as part of my New Year's resolutions and, while it's still a work in progress, I think I've made a good start. Gone is the rust-colored background (very 1970s) and the Moroccan tagine photo border (I'll admit I was partial to that photo, but it's time to move on). Instead, I'm aiming for something a little more clean and crisp.

I'll be the first to admit that I know nothing about blog design. In fact, I'm pretty stone age when it comes to computer skills in general. Matt always laughs at my two-finger typing (some of us weren't fortunate enough to have computer classes in high school and, anyway, it gets the job done), and before I started this blog, I thought HTML was a shortened version of Hotmail (okay, I might be fudging the truth a little - I knew what HTML was, but you can be sure I couldn't understand it!).

For this reason, my new design isn't very adventurous. But I'm learning, and I expect the blog to grow with me. Of course, I wouldn't have managed nearly so well without the help of My Memories Suite digital scrapbooking software. Yesterday, I mentioned that the software was for much more than scrapbooking, and this blog redesign is another example of what it can do.

In case you haven't noticed, I have a giveaway going on at the moment, so if you're interested in some fun easy-to-use software to help you get your photos in order, re-vamp your blog or perhaps create a few cute Valentine's printables, head on over to the giveaway and enter!